STEM Tuesday– Tectonics: Volcanoes, Ring of fire– In the Classroom

What’s going on in the ground underneath our feet? Why does Earth stretch, shake, and sometimes spit out molten rock? There are a lot of great books to help students learn more about Earth, how it moves, and what causes earthquakes and volcanoes. They are an excellent starting point for activities and discussion in the classroom. Let’s dig in and get ready to rock!

Fault Lines: Understanding The Power Of Earthquakes by Joanna Wagstaffe

A thorough discussion of the science behind earthquakes, advances in monitoring and predicting them, and the numerous subsequent events (such as aftershocks and liquefaction) all framed within the first hand experiences of a female seismologist/meteorologist. Full of photographs, graphics, and specific examples, it also includes a wonderful chapter of preparedness.

Classroom activity: Why does the ground shake during an earthquake? Waves! When an earthquake occurs, energy is released in the earth and sent out in all directions as seismic waves. The shaking that we feel during an earthquake is caused by seismic waves. In this simple activity, students will see how seismic waves called P waves travel through different materials.

You’ll need: a shoebox (without a lid), scissors, string, tape, paper clips

First, use the scissors to make a small hole into opposite ends of the box. Then, run a string through the two holes and secure the ends to the outside of the box with a knot or tape. Attach four or five paper clips to the string inside the box. Next, put the box on a table so that the string is vertical. Then, hit the table with a fist hard enough to make it vibrate.

What happens to the paper clips? Do they vibrate? Why does this happen? Have students explain how this experiment relates to earthquakes. You can change this activity by changing the size of the paper clips and the thickness of the string. Have students explain the new results.


Mount St. Helens by Jen Green

After vividly explaining the impressive effects of Mount St Helens’ eruption, the book examines the source, location, and structure of volcanoes around the world. As well as the aftermath and eventual recovery of the area. A glossary and additional resources offer additional information on active volcanos worldwide.

Classroom activity: Did you know that there are more than 65 active volcanoes in the United States? Have students research U.S. volcanoes. Where are they located? Have students create a map that shows volcanoes in the United States. Which volcanoes are considered the most dangerous? Divide students into small groups and assign each group a dangerous volcano to research. Have each group prepare a multimedia presentation for the class about their volcano.


Plate Tectonics by Charlotte Luongo

This book begins with the idea that continents were once attached, and showing fossil evidence that supports that idea. Not only do plates shake the Earth, but the concept shook the accepted theories on age of the Earth and how it formed. From there, the book explores undersea evidence for continental drift, and looks at the technologies used to track the movement of Earth’s plates.

Classroom activity: Ask students to define a fault in geology. What types of faults are there? What role do faults have in earthquakes? Divide students into small groups and assign each group a type of fault. Have the students create a model of their assigned fault type. They can create a physical 3-D model or a computer animation. Give a real-life example of this type of fault. What happens when there is movement along the fault?

Looking to explore more and learn how Earth moves? Browse through the pages of these activity books and choose a few to do in class or at home!

Dynamic Planet: Exploring Changes on Earth with Science Projects by Tammy Enz

This book includes seven miniature Earth-shattering experiments that explore different aspects of geology. Experiment topics include plate tectonics, volcanoes, and tsunamis and suitable for classroom or home.




Fault Lines & Tectonic Plates: Discover What Happens When the Earth’s Crust Moves With 25 Projects (Build It Yourself) by Kathleen M. Reilly.

Each of six chapters explores one aspect of plate tectonics: how they move, earthquakes, volcanoes, and more. Sidebars and textboxes highlight words to know, essential questions, and links to primary sources. Activities include making a seismograph and building a shake table to test model structures.




Carla Mooney loves to explore the world around us and discover the details about how it works. An award-winning author of numerous nonfiction science books for kids and teens, she hopes to spark a healthy curiosity and love of science in today’s young people. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, three kids, and dog. When not writing, she can often be spotted at a hockey rink for one of her kids’ games. Find her at, on Facebook @carlamooneyauthor, or on Twitter @carlawrites.

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